Professor Grant Horner is a rock-climbing, sailing English teacher at The Master’s College and author of Meaning at the Movies: Becoming a Discerning Viewer (Crossway, 2010). I took only gen ed courses with Horner in college, but they were always intellectually appetizing. Horner’s teaching was passionate, stirring, and tension-building, creating the need for wise and discerning resolutions. His conversational style was like watching a conveyer belt at a manufacturing plant whirring by with all sorts of bits and pieces that you can tell make up something functional and valuable even though you don’t yet know what (or how). I knew his answers to my three questions about teaching would be equally valuable.
What are your main pedagogical principles?
I use a mix of Socratic discussion and some lecturing, based on the circumstances. Mostly I ask lots of questions which follow one upon another, building on responses.
What are common weaknesses of young teachers?
Overstressing on grading and overdoing the minutiae of response to written work. You have to get through the stacks, so the best way to survive is to discuss your critique verbally. This sinks in far better than scribbling all over papers and exams. The research shows that most students don’t get as much from that as they do from a brief verbal interaction.
How have you developed as a teacher over the years?
I have learned to focus more on asking questions than dumping information. I am trying to form critical minds that can appreciate goodness, truth, and beauty, and you don’t do that by mere exposure to those things. You have to prompt exploratory thinking.
Thanks, Prof. Horner, for keeping us curious, guessing, and growing. May many generations of students develop those beautiful and rugged resolutions to the big questions of life.
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